Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Guan Eng concerned over Penang’s state of finances


FMT - https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2024/05/28/guan-eng-concerned-over-penangs-state-of-finances/

Guan Eng concerned over

Penang’s state of finances

Predeep Nambiar-

Former chief minister says the balance of the state’s finances plummeted from RM1.15 billion in 2019 to RM330 million in 2023.

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Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng wants to know why Penang Development Corporation’s tax bill soared to RM204 million between 2018 and 2022. (JPN pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Former chief minister Lim Guan Eng expressed concern today over Penang’s financial health, following a drastic reduction in the state’s bank balance.

He said it was concerning that the state government’s main account balance had plummeted by RM825 million over the past four years, from RM1.15 billion in 2019 to RM330 million in 2023.

Lim said this could be improved by reinforcing competent, accountable, and transparent (CAT) governance values to enhance Penang’s finances.

“This is to ensure that Penang escapes a fiscal deficit trap,” the Air Putih assemblyman said in debating a motion of thanks to the governor at the state assembly.

Lim said if CAT was used, it would have benefitted Penang in the controversial Batu Kawan land deal. He also said open tenders were the best practice after the chief minister revealed yesterday that Penang had netted 21% higher revenue in the sale of the land.

Yesterday, the state assembly heard that a 559-acre plot of land in Byram, Batu Kawan, fetched RM780 million through open tender, compared to a directly negotiated deal of RM646 million which was later cancelled due to public pressure.

“This open tender process clearly benefitted Penang by an extra RM134 million,” Lim said.

He also pointed out issues related to the Gurney Bay development project, where costs ballooned from RM175 million to RM247 million due to poor oversight and planning. The project also received many brickbats due to major defects after its opening.

“Defects and delays are unacceptable. We need professional project management,” Lim said.

He also criticised the tax management of Penang Development Corporation, saying its tax payments surged from RM5.8 million between 2008 and 2017 to RM204 million between 2018 and 2022.

He said better tax planning was needed to free up funds for critical development projects, including resolving water supply issues in Batu Kawan and Sungai Bakap.

Lim also panned the Penang Water Supply Corporation for inefficiencies and high tariffs, which he linked to repeated water supply disruptions.

He reiterated his call for Penang to mimic Selangor’s pledge of RM65 million to set up a high-end tech park focused on integrated circuit design.

He also called for a special financial zone in Penang, akin to Johor’s Forest City, to spur economic growth.

Lim said increased funding for Islamic religious affairs was good, but that equal increments for non-Islamic places of worship were also necessary.

“We must ensure equitable support for all religious communities,” he said.

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